Flying Through the Pandemic With the New United CEO

The Four Percent


There’s rarely an easy time to become chief executive of an airline, in an industry with near-constant turbulence. Try doing it during a pandemic.

United Airlines promoted Scott Kirby to CEO six weeks ago in a long-planned transition. He had already slashed schedules 88%—far more aggressively than competitors. He took on a lot more debt, mortgaging its frequent-flier program and selling new shares of stock to raise $10.65 billion in cash in addition to a $5 billion federal bailout. He never promised an empty middle seat,…



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